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Asia MICE sector will survive downturn

November 5th, 2008 · No Comments


CONVENTIONS and exhibitions in the region will weather the global financial storm, despite a drop in delegate attendance, but corporate meetings and incentive travel will plummet as budgets are cut, those in the industry say.

Last year, Asia’s conventions and exhibitions industry hosted 1,732 trade fairs, generated US$3.25 billion in revenue, according to figures from UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry.

South-east Asia’s top five markets, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, put on 300 events pulling in US$587 million.

While those in the industry say that few major events have been cancelled, attendance and revenues have dropped as a direct result of the global financial crisis.

‘We can safely assume that the third and fourth quarters of this year will be pretty weak compared to previous years, as companies cut back on international travel in the face of future uncertainty,’ said UFI Asia/Pacific regional manager Paul Woodward.

‘There are mixed reports coming from the major trade fairs under way now. Some are reporting flat visitor figures while others are conceding a 15-20 per cent reduction in international participation. The expectation is certainly that participation in Asian events from North America and Europe will be lower.’

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), responsible for marketing the country’s meetings industry domestically and internationally, has revised down its 2008 growth target. Thailand’s meetings industry has been affected by global economics and local political turmoil, which has scared off delegates.

‘We had great momentum in the first quarter this year, and were aiming for more than 20 per cent growth,’ TCEB president Natwut Amornvivat told BT. ‘Now we’re aiming for just 20 per cent growth and 65 billion baht (S$2.75 billion) revenue target.

‘For conferences and exhibitions we have not seen many events cancelled, but we have seen a 20-30 per cent drop in delegates at the peak of the local political situation,’ he said. ‘Overall, the economy is the more serious issue. It’s a problem of demand.’

TCEB, like other trade bodies in the region, has adapted its strategy to target Asia’s business travellers. Asean accounts for more than 60 per cent of business travellers coming to Thailand, with around 90 per cent coming from Asia, said Mr Amornvivat.

Despite the current problems, the industry maintains a positive outlook. ‘The exhibitions industry is traditionally quite resilient in times of downturn. Conventions and congresses generally stick to their schedules even if attendance levels drop,’ said Mr Woodward. ‘Corporate meetings and incentive travel tend to be hit most directly, as in the current situation, luxurious trips for senior executives and clients are seen as undesirable.’

Last week, Singapore hosted ITB Asia – the inaugural sister event of the world’s biggest travel trade fair, ITB Berlin, organised by Messe Berlin – attracting around 6,000 delegates to Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

‘The world’s travel professionals have turned out in force, despite, or even because of, economic uncertainties. ITB Asia is the perfect platform to plan and prepare for the recovery to come,’ said Raimund Hosch, chief executive of Messe Berlin.

Published November 5, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: business · news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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